SGT JOEL L. MURRAY
Posting date: 9/3/08
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Clarkston, Washington
Milblog: The Angry American
How do you describe an Infantryman? Some would say it’s by the blue cord, the medals, tabs, and badges they have. I can tell you it’s someone who eats, sleeps, and breaths Infantry. It’s someone proficient in battle drills and the weapons of his chosen profession. It is someone who is calm cool and collected in the face of danger. It is someone who can make life or death decisions on the fly. Sgt Murray did all these things. Sgt Murray is how I would describe an Infantryman. If you didn’t know him you wouldn’t think that this skinny non-smiling soldier was the embodiment of an Infantryman. Looks can be deceiving.
Sgt Murray was full of courage, natural leadership ability, and stamina that you can’t even imagine. I was amazed by Sgt Murray during the squad eval at range 10, the ‘Suck Fest’ as we lovingly referred to it. It was only supposed to be a 14km movement, but somehow we managed to turn it into 22km. Under a brutal Kansas sun, we lost half of the platoon as heat casualties in the first day. Not once can I recall ever seeing signs of suck on Sgt Murray’s face.
It carried on over in Iraq and became somewhat of a contest between us, trying to catch each other tiring out. Captain Anderson told us that when we started feeling fatigued to ‘smile’ and keep moving on. Sgt Murray and I referred to this as Smiles Time. He would call me on the radio or come over to my side of the street and take a knee and ask me if I was ‘Smilin’ yet. I would never admit to it nor would he, but at the end of a mission there would be Sgt Murray smiling from ear to ear, and he was not alone.
Sgt Murray was brave, and I know I had never seen him scared. There was a time where he got shot at while pulling COP security. I heard the 240 rattle off and seconds later I hear Sgt Murray come over the radio: “I took small arms fire and returned fire to let them know I mean business.”
That was Sgt Murray, all business. Super cool is the best way to describe him under fire. He always wanted to be out front and in the lead, a true no-nonsense, leads from the front NCO. He loved to lead the way. He would tell us, “I love having the open road in front of me.” He loved being an NCO. He told me he liked being a Squad Leader more so than a team leader because he could have more influence over more Soldiers. He loved to mentor and teach, and there is not a single soldier in 2nd platoon that has not learned something from Sgt Murray. That is his legacy and those of us touched by his leadership will carry a piece of Sgt Murray and pass it down to other young soldiers for years to come.
He had this dry sense of humor, and was just hilarious. Out of the blue he would say something so random and straight-faced that everyone would burst out into laughter except for him, and he would make you wonder whether or not he was joking. He thoroughly had Serrano convinced one day that getting an exhaust sample was part of a PMCS. Everyone who was there will remember Serrano walking around holding a large trash bag full of humvee exhaust for hours. He also had these Murrayism’s that he would come up with. My favorites: "The Highest of Speeds”, and “The Hooahness”. He was always challenging his men to be of the Highest of Speeds, knocking on one's door at random hours of the night, to see if they wanted to disassemble a SAW or something.
We talked about what we wanted to do career-wise, and he said this is what he wanted to do. Be in the Infantry, go to Ranger school and just be in the Infantry. He had found a home in the Army.
I’m glad to have known Sgt Murray because we had a lot in common. He was a real man all the way around, because it takes a real man to admit they are a classic Star Trek fan, or X-Files. We would sit together out at the COP and try to get through episodes of the original Star Trek, and then try to remember why we used to enjoy them so much long ago. He was a really smart guy and had done so much in life. He ran the NYC marathon; he had been all over the world. He loved to see new places and do different things; he was a modern day explorer. He loved history and he would encourage others to learn and to try something new. Before I knew it he had me reading The Iliad, and would always ask me if I was done so I could start The Odyssey.
Sgt Murray was a great person too; recently he had told me that he wanted to become a Freemason. He liked what they stood for and had told me that he thought he could become a better man, how he always wanted to be a part of something like that, helping people and kids, and being a part of history. So many great names in history had been Freemasons. What I didn’t get to tell him and what I want his family and everyone to know is: Joel, you were already a great person, a great man and leader, and someone that I will strive to be like, a great role model for any young soldier or grown man. Sgt Joel Lee Murray was an outstanding leader, Soldier, Hero, Husband, Father, and friend. We miss you, and we love you. You will never be forgotten.
SGT Joel L. Murray, KIA September 4, 2007